ORLANDO — The moment Detroit Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy decided to acquire point guard Reggie Jackson at the NBA trade deadline, it was going to be for better or worse.
After struggling for the first 10 games after arriving from the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he was a backup to Russell Westbrook for the majority of four seasons, Jackson was dominant in his last 16 games.
But the good and bad performances really didn’t matter when you consider that, even while Jackson was struggling, Van Gundy was saying that Jackson was the team’s point guard of the future.
It was a mere formality when the Pistons and Jackson, 25, agreed late Sunday to a five-year, $80-million contract extension, according to two people with firsthand knowledge of the situation. The two sides met for the first time Saturday, and a deal quickly hatched Sunday.
They requested anonymity because the agreement comes during the league’s free agency moratorium, which ends Thursday. That’s when agreements officially can be signed — although the Pistons might wait for an official signing. The team needs a third center and will use its remaining $4 million in cap space to sign another player from outside the organization. Then it would go over the cap to sign Jackson, which is allowed for keeping a restricted free agent.
Jackson’s deal temporarily becomes the largest in franchise history. It will be eclipsed when center Andre Drummond agrees to a maximum contract extension in the near future.
This agreement means that the Pistons have locked up their point guard of the future, after giving up point guard D.J. Augustin, small forward Kyle Singler and two future second-round picks in a three-team trade that netted Jackson in February.
Without benefit of a training camp and practice time, the struggle was real for Jackson at first. In his first 10 games playing for the Pistons, he averaged 14.7 points, 7.3 assists and 3.1 turnovers per game. He shot 24.2% from three-point range and 37.1% overall. The Pistons endured a 10-game losing streak while Jackson was starting.
Fans were killing the trade — especially with fresh memories of Brandon Jennings’ 15-game run during which he led the Pistons to a 12-3 record before suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in January.
But Jackson settled down as he grew more comfortable in Van Gundy’s pick-and-roll offense. In the last 16 games (one-fifth of an NBA season), he averaged 20 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and nearly four turnovers per game.
His shooting improved to 39.1% from three-point range and 48% overall.
Those were dominant numbers as he became a consistent triple-double threat. He had two triple-doubles, plus a 23-point, 20-assist performance against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jackson was determined to stick with the Pistons after being unhappy in Oklahoma City. He developed an instant bond with team owner Tom Gores and loves playing for Van Gundy.
He sees the young core of Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and rookie Stanley Johnson and believes that he can win a championship with the Pistons. He has been at both Pistons summer-league games this week in Orlando, lending his support.